Unsuccessful Great Slave candidate Patrick Scott is accusing former health minister Glen Abernethy of disclosing private medical information that was used to undermine his campaign.
The accusation comes in the form of a letter, which Scott called a “draft,” which appeared in Yellowknifer‘s mailbox on Friday. Scott’s letter, written after the Oct. 1 territorial election, accuses Abernethy of sharing information about a medical diagnosis with Scott’s sole challenger for the seat, Katrina Nokleby, who ultimately won and is now sitting on cabinet as minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment and Infrastructure.
Abernethy served as Great Slave MLA for three terms — the last two in cabinet as health minister — before announcing Aug. 11 that he would not be seeking re-election. He subsequently announced his support for Nokleby during the election to replace him.
Nokleby won the seat over Scott by a tally of 454 votes to 389.
Scott’s unsigned, undated letter, with Birchwood Coffee K’o letterhead – Scott’s co-owned coffee shop — alleges that Abernethy and Nokleby conspired to help shape conditions for her win.
According to the letter, the conspiracy included a ploy by Abernethy and Nokleby to keep Abernethy’s plans to leave politics a secret until just before the election, so as to leave the impression that he would be seeking re-election, which would discourage anyone else from challenging him.
The most troubling allegation, however, is the assertion that Abernethy passed information about a medical diagnosis Scott had received to Nokleby’s campaign, which Scott says he had confided to Abernethy during a “private conversation” last May. The letter alleges that Nokleby “started spreading a rumour” about the diagnosis during the election.
“I immediately texted Glen and demanded he stop the rumour and write an apology,” the letter states.
Yellowknifer is not disclosing the full contents of the letter for privacy reasons.
During an interview on Tuesday, Scott refused to disclose where he sent the letter, saying only that it went to “three parties.”
“It was a confidential letter that was sent to three parties,” said Scott. “I have had two responses and I’m waiting for the third response.”
Scott verified the letter during an interview Tuesday morning, saying the version Yellowknifer received was an initial draft that “did not go anywhere.” He did not explain how it could have reached Yellowknifer, although he was surprised Yellowknifer had obtained it.
Abernethy said in an interview Monday that he publicly endorsed Nokleby in a Sept. 23 Facebook post after being asked his opinion by numerous residents.
He insisted the decision came after viewing the two candidates in public election forums and that it was largely based on her engineering background. He added that beyond the Facebook post, he never worked for or campaigned on behalf of any candidate.
“The only thing I could say is that I watched the debates or forums and I thought Katrina presented herself very well,” said Abernethy. “I felt that Patrick didn’t appear as strong.
“We are coming into very difficult times in this territory as far as the economy and other issues go and we need people with the desire and energy and commitment to get hard work done.”
Abernethy said he was unaware of the existence of Scott’s complaint letter and that he is disappointed the candidate would think he would impart any undue influence in the campaign beyond naming his preference on a Facebook page.
“I always felt like I got along with Patrick and I think Patrick is a good man,” Abernethy said. “I think he has done an awful lot for this territory. I think he has the capacity to do an awful lot more. I respect the work he has done in many different areas and I think he has contributed to this territory.”
As for the disclosure of medical information, Abernethy said he first learned of Scott’s diagnosis “months ago” while sitting in his coffee shop where many other people were present.
“Patrick mentioned one time to me — and I was in a large room with a large number of people sitting with individuals — when he mentioned that he had this issue,” Abernethy said. “He explained it to me and others while sitting in his restaurant. It wasn’t just me that he was telling that to.
“I didn’t hear people (during the campaign) say anything per se, but I did have one person ask me about it … I was actually trying to help them understand that he doesn’t have a health issue.”
Yellowknifer reached out to Nokleby’s office on Monday and Tuesday but did not hear back from her.